Issue of May 17, 2015

Courier Anniversary Issue
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Stopping to save Mt Sto Tomas

There’s a sense of victory especially among those who have fought hard to call attention about the violations made on Mt. Sto. Tomas, with the latest Court of Appeals issuance this week ordering the permanent stop of all developments and further issuances that would cause environmental damage in the area.

The ruling was clear: no activities whatsoever should be permitted within Mt. Sto. Tomas, a declared forest reservation by virtue of a 1940 presidential proclamation. All existing development activities there should be stopped; no tax declarations, no permits for business operations or activities that tend to degrade the forest reserve, including filming or shooting, should be issued without clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other concerned agencies.

Notably, the CA told the concerned parties to act and do their respective duties as “the era of delays, procrastination and ad hoc measures is over.” Knowing and understanding what a “forest reserve” means could have made one to immediately back off and think of preservation. Being public servants, elected at that, should have been cause for one to see a red flag and be set straight. If that isn’t direct and chastising enough, nothing more can make them to take heed.

While the unfortunate thing happened, we still fervently hope that the Mt. Sto. Tomas forest reservation can be still restored to its former state, in spite of the great possibility that the CA ruling, firm as it may seem, may be brushed off as violable, given the capability of the parties to whom the orders are addressed. We hope that residents, as well, will realize the effects of business and tourist activities in the forest reserve, if not regulated.

We wanted to believe the CA ruling would put an end to the abuse of Mt. Sto. Tomas. We wanted to count on Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr., Tuba Mayor Florencio Bentrez, Municipal Assessor Prudencio Pinkisan, Tuba Police Chief William B. Willie, the DENR, and other concerned agencies to follow their orders.

But more than that, we wanted to trust that those who caused and brought this major environmental issue to the fore, among other matters of public concern, would also find victory in helping each other in the rehabilitation not only of the eroded and destroyed portions of Mt. Sto. Tomas, but also in healing  possibly severed bridges between the parties. After all, the legal tussle, we assume, was to save the forest reservation and make it last as long as it can take, not to destroy lives or end others’ ambitions.

Forevermore in Sitio Pungayan a.k.a. La Presa may soon be ending and leaving trails of both the good and bad sides of development, but we all remain, and we’d rather it be in a friendly, orderly, and healthy environment.



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